Courage Under Fire
138 Pages
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Courage Under Fire


Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer
138 Pages


by Patrick Sheane Duncan



Published by
Reads 11
Language English


A screenplay
Patrick Sheane Duncan
Converted to PDF by SCREENTALK
A man on fire, his face and hair aflame. He stares at you, accusation in his eyes. You raise a hand to keep him away. The hand bursts into flame. It is a torch, skin blistering. The burning man screams. You are inside a tank, M1A1 Abrams. The instruments glow green. Another man on fire scrambles from the hatch. The fire traces a lazy line across the bulkhead. It is headed to the ammunition stacks. The man screams at you again. The fire leaps upon the magazine of 20mm shells. It dances there a few seconds. The man is upon you  burning before your eyes. The scream is intelligible for the first time. "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!"
The flames become amber fluid in glass.
COLONEL NATHANIAL "NAT" SERLING, looks at the glass, at his watch, finishes the drink, leaves.
Serling crosses the street pouring half a box of TicTacs into his mouth, eating them like candy.
He heads toward one of those anonymous buildings in Suitland outside Washington, D.C. Serling is in his 40's, born to the uniform, but there is something sad in his eyes, defeated in his walk.
He enters the building.
The sign on a door says "U.S. Army  Awards and Decorations Branch." Serling enters.
COLONEL PHILLIP LEVINE, a little martinet, a bureaucratic Hitler.
Serling sits across from the desk from Levine. The desk is immaculate, everything arranged with a ruler and a Tsquare. Nameplate with pens up front.
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LEVINE I remember you. I was there in Desert Storm, 24th Mech.
Serling nods grimly. He's been through this before. Levine won't let it alone.
LEVINE Frankly, I'm surprised you're still in the service.
So am I.
The answer doesn't give Levine any satisfaction.
LEVINE I don't agree with this assignment. I'm sure the General has his own reasons.
SERLING I'm sure. Could I look at the file?
The file sits alone on that splendid desk  centered.
LEVINE I'm not required to release the documentation until I receive all of the proper forms and orders.
He smiles. What a paperpushing asshole. Serling smiles ruefully.
LEVINE Something funny, Colonel?
SERLING Just petty little men like you who don't have power but pounce on any semblance of it like a crow on a road kill.
Levine clenches his jaw. He's about to reply or spit. The door opens. GENERAL HERSHBERG enters.
The two Colonels stand at attention until the General nods then down. He slides his butt onto Levine's desk, sweeping the nameplate to the corner. Levine has a shitfit, but swallows it.
GEN. HERSHBERG How are you doing, Nat?
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SERLING I have an "In" box and an "Out." I empty one and fill the other. I even have a rubber stamp with my name on it so I don't get writer's cramp. It's heaven.
Hershberg picks up the file, glances at the label and tosses it to Serling. Levine is about to protest, but a look from the General cuts it off at the knees.
GEN. HERSHBERG This is a little hot potato and in that weird form of Washington alchemy it could turn into a political football. Captain Karen Emma Walden, first woman to be eligible for the Medal of Honor.
In combat.
GEN. HERSHBERG In combat. First we got all the stink about women in combat. There are some who will be sniping at this just because of that. Then there are those that are going to line up and say we're only doing this to overcompensate or distract the public from the charges of sexism and sexual harassment in the services.
LEVINE Bullshit.
Hershberg looks at Levine like he was a cockroach on a cake.
GEN. HERSHBERG There are only two things you have to worry about, Nat. The President wants this. I want this. His reasons ... ? As usual I haven't a clue. I want it because I think she deserves it. Put it under a microscope. With your usual thoroughness, Nat. Any problems call my Adjutant, Captain Banachek, or even me. No slacking. This is important, Nat. To the nation. To the Army. To me. Let's go.
He rises. Levine pops up.
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LEVINE Sir, I can't let that file leave this office. I haven't received my 2930 or the 264.
GEN. HERSHBERG Colonel, there's nothing I detest more than little D.C. hamsters who can't see beyond the paper at the bottom of their little cages.
He leads Serling out, closes the door behind him. Levine is left to straighten his desk.
The General's car waits outside. Hershberg and Serling exit, go to the car. Hershberg looks up at the building.
GEN. HERSHBERG That's what's killing this country. Not crime or pollution. My daddy used to tell me  look close at the word bureaucrat. There's always a rat in it. (beat) Do this right, Nat, and you can broom your rubber stamps.
Yes, sir.
GEN. HERSHBERG Captain Banachek has a list of the eyewitnesses and their current postings. Need a ride?
SERLING No, sir. I drove my own car.
GEN. HERSHBERG Well, don't blow through a stop sign. That breath will lose you your license.
Serling is embarrassed. He salutes. Hershberg salutes back and gets into the car, unwinds the window.
GEN. HERSHBERG Do this right, Nat, Captain Karen Walden deserves it. And you need it.
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And he signals to the driver and is gone.
Serling looks at the file, walks to his car, stops. He makes a right turn, crosses the street, enters a bar.
A big house and a big yard. There are five kids in the yard with a refrigerator box. They are arguing over the benefits of creating a house or a fort. A lot of yelling, laughing, and running back and forth to the house for scissors, fat felt pens and a hacksaw blade to cut the windows or gun ports (still under heated discussion).
Serling watches from his car, parked across the street.
A woman comes out of the house. She is handsome, some of the kids look like her. Her name is MEREDITH. She carries a steaming cup of coffee and walks in a straight path across the street to Serling.
MEREDITH Just made a fresh pot. I put some cocoa in it for you.
SERLING Thanks. You got a new fridge.
MEREDITH Yes. The noise it used to make at three in the morning? That horrible rattle and moan? Didn't make it night before last.
She leans comfortably against the car.
MEREDITH Got up to find a big puddle on the kitchen floor and had to throw away a whole chicken. This one's more efficient and has an ice maker in the door. (beat) You can't do this anymore. It scares the kids.
Serling notices the children glancing his way.
MEREDITH They don't understand why their daddy chose to move out and leave them. Neither do I.
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SERLING You don't? I explained it to you. I have to work out this ... thing.
MEREDITH I hear what you say. That doesn't mean I understand it. But the kids. They think it's their fault. Don't do this to them anymore.
SERLING I ... I'm leaving town for a days. Hershberg's got me taking a Medal of Honor and wrapping it up in a shiny wrapper.
MEREDITH Medal of Honor?
A woman.
MEREDITH Good for her.
SERLING Posthumous.
Too bad.
But still good for her. And about time. How long you going to be gone?
SERLING A week. Ten days.
MEREDITH When you get back we have to deal with this. One way or another.
She makes it sound very ominous. Serling makes light, Smiles.
SERLING Sounds like an ultimatum.
She doesn't smile at all.
MEREDITH It is. I don't want you haunting us like this. Either you come through that front door  to stay  or you don't come back here at all. That was hard to say.
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And she walks back to the house, trying to hold onto her composure, tears he can't see in her eyes. But Serling can feel them. He knows her that well.
He holds the cup up to her. It is empty.
The front door slams shut.
Serling drives away. All five kids stop and watch him go.
It is dark in the plane. Most overhead lights out, most passengers sleeping.
One light is on  Serling's. He is in civilian clothes. There is a collection of little bottles on Serling's tray, all empty.
He is reading Walden's file. There are tears in his eyes. The stewardess comes by and sees the tears. Serling, embarrassed, turns off the overhead light and turns his face to the window. He can see his own reflection. A man in pain. Deep, soulcutting pain. He pulls down the shade.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Home of the 82nd Airborne.
Serling, in uniform, walks into one of those onestory wooden barracks left over from WWII.
A classroom. Horrible photos of the results of bad dental hygiene, an illustration of proper brushing. Serling turns the disgusting photos to face the wall. The room is filling up with eleven men, all talking excitedly. It is a reunion of sorts. Hugs, unashamed tears and endless talk. "What have you been doing?" "Going to meet with us after?" "You're getting fat, man."
A man in civilian clothes enters and is instantly surrounded by the others. "Where you been?" "How's civilian life?" "How are the legs?"
He pulls up his pant legs to reveal two artificial limbs. That brings a round of scar comparison as clothing is peeled away or dropped to reveal the shiny tissue. War wounds.
Serling watches  an outsider.
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FIRST LIEUTENANT CHELLI counts heads and goes up to Serling.
LT. CHELLI All present and accounted for, sir.
Serling faces the men as they settle into their seats.
SERLING I'm trying to confirm the sequence of events that occurred at or around Al Kufan on 26 February 1991. How did you men come to be on the Blackhawk designated Dust Off Two piloted by Warrant officer Fowler? Was it a combat Medevac?
No. Sir.
Traffic accident.
EGAN Damn Saudi drivers, sir. Thought they were driving cabs in New York.
THOMPSON Most of them are.
LT. CHELLI We'd have a convoy of thirty trucks or more and they'd decide to pass.
EGAN And another Kamikazi Saudi would be coming the other way.
THOMPSON They couldn't go to the shoulder  minefields. They'd...
LT. CHELLI We were heading along the north end of Iraq to set up a fueling depot for the 24th, part of Schwartzkopf's "Hail Mary". Some mad Saudi in a deuceandahalf goes to pass the convoy and suddenly there's another convoy coming the other way.
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A long column of trucks roll down a narrow road. Smoke from Kuwait wafts over the endless sand. In the back of one five ton truck 2nd Lt. Chelli and his men, plus ten more, sit, bored, smoking and joking.
A Saudi driver in a big pale blue piece of shit truck thunders down the road passing the Army convoy, oblivious to the danger, bouncing his head to some Paul Revere and the Raiders music. Then he sees the other convoy. He looks for a gap in the traffic alongside of him. None. He slams on the brakes! The truck goes into a skid. It fishtails, ramming Chelli's truck. The trucks hurtle off the road. Both hit mines on the shoulder. The Saudi truck blows up. The big fiveton flips onto its side and skids for yards, plowing up sand. Another mine goes off. The truck stops. The passengers litter the sand, wounded  moaning, screaming, bleeding or very still.
LT. CHELLI We had fifteen injured. Mostly broken bones, contusions.
EGAN A few burns. The Saudi truck blew up.
JENKINS Mines were going off like popcorn, but no shrapnel wounds.
THOMPSON The Saudi truck burned. The driver was a crispy critter.
EGAN His cargo was all over the road. Pampers and shower shoes  flip flops, you know.
JENKINS Here we are running around scared shitless of poison gas, and Scuds and the damn Republican Guard and we get taken out by some Saudi speed merchant with a truck load of flip flops.
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LT. CHELLI The Medevac, Warrant officer Fowler's bird, picked us up and headed south to some MASH unit. Nothing happened on the trip. It was pretty routine.
EGAN Until we were shot down.
That statement takes the wind out of everybody.
The Blackhawk flies low along the east side of the Euphrates River. Mountains on both sides. Inside are Lt. Chelli and his men, bandaged and bloodied but conscious.
LT. CHELLI (V.O.) Low, fifty to a hundred feet off the floor.
The chopper shudders. A huge impact. Then it begins to fall. Shouting, screaming. The chopper hits the ground hard. The impact splays the skids. Men fall out the doors.
SERLING Do you know what brought you down?
LT. CHELLI No. Triple A, a missile, TOW? Couldn't tell. One moment we were up  the next we were eating sand.
SERLING When did you see the enemy?
LT. CHELLI Egan thought he saw some enemy movement before we got hit.
EGAN Just some figures below. Could have been Bedouins, hard to tell.
JENKINS I thought I saw a flash.